Thoughts about travelling in Armenia

Armenian priest in red robes and a crown holding a ceremony in the Haghartsin monastery

After travelling in Armenia for two-and-a-half weeks this spring, we are back in Berlin now. We travelled through the country independently and by public transport. And as always, we did an unbiased recap of our travel in Armenia: What did we like in Armenia? What was difficult or annoying? Would we recommend travelling to Armenia?

Our trip was not sponsored in any way and all in all, we liked Armenia very much. It is a great travel destination, and we would love to come back at some point in the future.

The joys of Armenian food

As vegetarians we have other requirements and expectations regarding food than meat-eating travellers. To our pleasant surprise, Armenian food was delicious whenever we went out for dinner or bought ready-made snacks. One of the great discoveries while travelling in Armenia was a flatbread stuffed with herbs called Jingalov Hats. It is typical for Southern Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and reminded us of a speciality from Daghestan we tried on a trip to Saint Petersburg. Other dishes used a lot of wild mushrooms, herbs, and walnuts. We had expected great food, based on our experiences travelling in neighbouring Georgia many years ago, but the reality exceeded our expectations. That said, Georgian cuisine is readily available in many Georgian restaurants in Armenia. We had a lot of Khachapuri (bread with cheese and sometimes eggs) and vegetarian Khinkali (big dumplings filled with cheese or mushrooms).

The only place we got tired of the food was in Alaverdi in the north of Armenia where we stayed for two nights. Apart from one snack bar there was no restaurant at all, and we ate a lot of bread and cheese. Good bread and ok cheese, though.

Eat whenever you want, whatever you want while travelling in Armenia

Armenian food in Yerevan

We were delighted by the fact that you can eat anything you want at any time during the day. After travelling in Italy, where you always wonder how many courses you have to order, and after eating out in Spain – quite impossible before 9 pm – travelling in Armenia was bliss! No strange looks, and better yet: Others are doing the same. Armenians are very relaxed about eating schedules. Whether it’s vegetables for breakfast, wine for lunch or sweets in the evening, you can just follow your appetites.

Drinking fountains in the streets

Natascha drinking from a street fountain while travelling in Armenia

Armenia is a mountainous country. All the water comes from mountain springs. Accordingly, it would be good to drink everywhere if it weren’t for the rusty old water pipes. The guidebooks warned, therefore, not to drink the tap water in most places. But conveniently, there were public drinking fountains everywhere in the street! Passers-by routinely stopped there to drink, and we could also fill our water bottle with delicious spring water.

Travelling in Armenia by public transport

Public transport in Armenia was a breeze in most cases. We could easily get to the places we wanted to see. In general, buses went on a schedule, leaving at a particular hour and not when they were full. However, it was often quite impossible to find out the exact schedule. Even at the bus stations, we found it difficult to find someone who knew when the first bus would leave the next morning.

Eventually we learned to ask for the “dispatcher”. The dispatcher seems to be the person responsible for timetables and sometimes also for the seat reservations. Often, he was not at the bus station in person and you would need to call him to find out more. In Armenian, of course, or at least in Russian. But don’t worry! Armenian people are incredibly helpful, and someone will call for you. We still don’t understand why they don’t just post a written timetable somewhere.

Sightseeing in Armenia

Haghpat monastery in Armenia

Our main reason to travel to Armenia was visiting the typical tourist sights: We wanted to see some UNESCO World Heritage sites and to explore the early Christian heritage of Armenia. All this was easily possible. Although the churches and monasteries are often out of the way, it was usually possible to reach them by a combination of public transport and some hiking or a short taxi ride. Sometimes we had to hitchhike.

The Armenian churches often have an unusual architecture and are quite picturesque. Some have detailed decorations, and often there were collections of khachkars, traditional grave and memorial stones with intricate carvings. However, after a few churches, we found the sightseeing somewhat repetitive.

Hiking in Armenia in spring

Natascha Hiking on the Transcaucasian Trail near Goshavank /Lake Parz

As we were travelling in Armenia in April, we had expected some cold and rainy weather, too. And indeed, when we arrived in Yerevan it was quite cold, and everyone was still wearing winter coats and woollen hats! But the weather soon got warmer, spring arrived, and suddenly everything was in bloom. In the countryside, we found surprisingly good hiking trails. Altogether we spent about 5 days hiking in Armenia. In particular, we liked the UNESCO trail between the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin. In the Dilijan Nationalpark we even extended our stay to do three hikes around the monasteries of Jukhtavank and Matosavank, Haghartsin, and Goshavank.

How did we like travelling in Armenia?

Travelling in Armenia would not have been as amazing as it was without the friendly people. As we always say: most people in most countries are very friendly. But sometimes they are especially friendly and helpful. That was the case in Armenia.

Have you been to Armenia? What did you like? Was there anything you didn’t like? Let us know!

For practical information and background about Armenia we used to travel guide books and some blogs. We bought the Bradt Guide Armenia in English and the German-language Trescher guidebook. Especially useful was also the “Absolute Armenia” blog by Megan and Aram.

NB: We were not sponsored for our travel to Armenia, nor for our blog post about travelling in Armenia. We paid all expenses ourselves.

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21 Comments

  1. I’d never thought of visiting Armenia before, but what a beautiful country. I like that you can eat whenever you want, you’re right about Italy, we do have set times. The UNESCO sites look incredible too, and I’m sure not overrun by tourists!

  2. Wow you covered Armenia quite well. I loved your comment about how extra friendly helpful and friendly Armenians are. It’s good that public transportation is quite adequate, too!

    1. Dear Carol, yes we travelled independently for almost three weeks and saw a lot of the country. Glad that you liked the post!

  3. I must admit that Armenia has never really been on my travel wish list. So it was great to read about your recent experience with travel in Armenia. I do like the idea of eating when I want. The late dining hours in most of Europe defeat us every time and we usually picnic for dinner. It is great that public transit is a good option. We like to save renting a car for longer trips.

    1. Dear Linda, public transport is possible but slow and crowded. I guess, if you are used to your own car you would find it very uncomfortable.

  4. It’s been a while since I have had my eyes on a trip to Armenia. I find it such a fascinated country. It’s great to hear that people are quite relaxed there and nobody is interested in what time you go out for dinner. The Armenian food looks delicious as well. I am also happy that there are public water fountains with drinkable water.

  5. It’s always special when you come across good and helpful people in a new country. Had never thought of traveling to Armenia but it looks such a pretty place to be in. Thanks for all the tips especially on how to get around. The UNESCO sites would be nice to visit and understand the history more.

    1. Dear Subhashish Roy, Armenia is a great country to travel It offers a lot: Good food, historical sightseeing and decent hiking.

  6. I’m unfamiliar with Armenian cuisine, but Khachapuri appears to be amazing! I think it’s a great idea that they have public drinking fountains since it saves people money and they don’t have to buy one. I’d like to visit Armenia since it is home to some of the world’s oldest cathedrals and monasteries, all of which are nestled in breathtaking natural settings.

  7. Thank you for sharing your honest review and experience of your trip to Armenia. Happy to know that you were able to find good food and wow! I am surprised by the availability of drinking fountains in the streets. That’s super amazing!

  8. The food looks fascinating. My husband and I like creating travel at home dinner nights. Do you have any recommendations for a cookbook to make this cuisine?

  9. I too am vegetarian, and so I love to read when a country that you would think has meat as their staple diet offers much choice and variety. And, completely agree- eat when you can, especially when travelling. Glad to hear you had such a positive experience in Armenia.

  10. I spent only four days in Armenia, definitely too little, and I plan to return there. I would love to use your tips on what else is worth seeing. I was delighted with the local cuisine and, of course, Armenian churches.

  11. It’s quite funny that you start your post with this extended food section 😉 I love how you describe the food in detail – as a matter of fact, I got a bit hungry. I imagine that they use super-fresh produce which of course enhances the taste of basically any dish. Also, I was pleased that they have those drinking water fountains. We used them in Italy, too, they are super- environment-friendly since you can just fill up your bottle and spare lots of plastic. Armenia is definitely on my list – together with Georgia – and your post is very encouraging 😀

  12. I have not been to Armenia, but I think I should go! I do love the distinctive look of the churches and enjoy a good hiking trail. The idea that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, is appealing to me. And, great to know the people are especially nice, too!

  13. I completely enjoyed reading about Armenia. I loved the mountainous spring water available everywhere as drinking water. That’s really cool and convenient. Also, glad to know about the availability of vegetarian food there. Loved the places you mentioned of Armenia.

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